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British underground railways (not London underground)


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Read somewhere about an underground oil depot up in Liverpool and once came across details regarding the MoD's Box Tunnel complex in Wiltshire. Although I'm not referring to the tube I'm aware there also used to be a very complex underground network around Farringdon in London.

 

Wondered if members knew of any other underground railway "systems" (i.e. something besides a simple tunnel) in Britain? 

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There was also an underground (partially) narrow gauge railway (mainly bunkers) at Chilmark/Dinton MoD ordanance depots until the 1990s. IIRC, the likes of Eastriggs might also have had similar.

 

Obviously the other one is the Glasgow system, though I believe that is more cut-n-shut (as is a lot of the Underground).

 

At the same site as Chilmark there was also an underground quarry railway that sourced materials for Salisbury Cathederal.

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Glasgow has a tube type system, though that may not be what you are interested in; it is, I believe, a closed system accessed by lift like the Waterloo and City.  Liverpool has quite a lot of underground railway, including underground passenger stations on both sides of the Mersey.

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There maybe another one built in North Yorkshire yet, proposals for the conveyer tunnel for the new potash mine near Whitby to Tees dock show a narrow gauge service railway in the same tunnel

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There was also an underground (partially) narrow gauge railway (mainly bunkers) at Chilmark/Dinton MoD ordanance depots until the 1990s. IIRC, the likes of Eastriggs might also have had similar.

 

Obviously the other one is the Glasgow system, though I believe that is more cut-n-shut (as is a lot of the Underground).

 

At the same site as Chilmark there was also an underground quarry railway that sourced materials for Salisbury Cathederal.

There was another set of sidings at Dinton; I think one was Navy, the other RAF.

Here's a Google Streetview, showing the non-military narrow-gauge railway at the latter- 'street-running narrow gauge in the UK!'

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.0787544,-2.0356998,3a,60y,335.86h,86.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sj7FPkBZGdVWZyD3zQTJurg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

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Many underground railway systems to be found in the mines and collieries of Britain, right up to the last deep mine closures.  Systems were extensive, running several miles into the seams from the shafts, with junctions, passing loops and quite steep gradients to cope with, coal, materials and workforce transport.  I've had a lot of fun finding out about these systems, layout, stock, motive power and operations, with various narrow gauges and even examples of monorail-type guidance.  Rack and pinion has been used and many of the latter-day battery locomotives, small and large, had 'rubber' or 'urethane' treads for much better adhesion on the steeper grades.

 

For me, finding out about these very different underground railways is a nice counterbalance to one of my main interests, the London Underground.  As an aside, we’re used to talking about Up and Down traffic directions on main-line railways but in the collieries’ rail systems the designations are ‘Inbye’ – towards the working face and ‘Outbye’ - returning to the shaft.

 

Even though the UK colliery systems are now sealed underground and lost, there are some surviving items of rolling stock and locomotives that can be tracked down at various sites [and measured], though documentary information of a really good standard for modelling seems relatively hard to come by - but I've hardly scratched the surface of possible archive sources as yet. 

 

There's an enormous of information with the Industrial Railway Society and some assorted background information to be found on the internet, including papers on developments in rope haulage and locomotives for underground use and one on design of mine cars:  http://www.dmm.org.uk/minequar/4401-01.htm  There's an interesting paper on traffic control underground:  http://www.dmm.org.uk/colleng/6010-01.htm

 

There are some pieces of video from modern times, some are poor quality but show vignettes of underground running and the general conditions of life deep under the surface e.g:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu6AX3C0euY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drB-_6_Nv7o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLcpYBX4qbg

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHz-XokrHiI

 

Finally – just for light entertainment - definitely not Underground and not truly a system, but worth a mention as an Under-something railway.  It’s an under-the-road railway, part of the maintenance arrangements for the Second Severn Road Crossing.  There was a short internet article on this, can’t find it now, but there is a brief sequence in the middle of this video piece:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg2cQECBQQ8

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Glasgow has a tube type system, though that may not be what you are interested in; it is, I believe, a closed system accessed by lift like the Waterloo and City. 

 

Not after modernisation in the late 1970s where a ramp was constructed to a new depot on the surface. However it isn't standard gauge and the tunnels are very small so it is still a 'closed' system as it were

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Subway

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No mention yet of the Tyne & Wear Metro

To my mind it was best when first opened in 1980 as part of the P T E integrated system but badly managed since bus de-reg

The spectacular bits are tunnel from Gateshead, then bursting out high over the Tyne then back in tunnel under Newcastle.

Byker araldyted curved viaduct is another excellent stretch over the Ouseburn and up past the Byker Wall

 

Worst bit is a poorly conceived still unlet grotesquely hideous Haymarket station replacing the original elegant minimalist drum.

Sadly it has never fulfilled the early promise of emerging out of the ground at St James and extending over the west end of Newcastle.

dh

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There was another set of sidings at Dinton; I think one was Navy, the other RAF.

Here's a Google Streetview, showing the non-military narrow-gauge railway at the latter- 'street-running narrow gauge in the UK!'

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.0787544,-2.0356998,3a,60y,335.86h,86.07t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sj7FPkBZGdVWZyD3zQTJurg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

If you turn through 90 degrees to look into the yard, you can see they have the same problem as modellers have, trying to join two baseboards together!
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I'm sure I've read somewhere that there's still rails through the Woodhead tunnels - well one of them anyway! After the steam tunnels were abandoned they were used by the national grid to run power lines through. I'm certain i read they at some stage there was a narrow gauge railway alongside for maintainence purposes. I don't know if it was temporary instillation or more permanent.

 

Given my memory I might be making this all up!

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Slightly more than just a tunnel, because it included a station,  was the Kingsway tram tunnel in London. It ran from a triangular junction on the Embankment under Waterloo Bridge- the steel doors are still there- under the Aldwych and up Kingsway. It emerged just north of Holborn where the ramp is still in place with inset conduit tracks. Much of the southern part of it is now a road tunnel between Waterloo Bridge and Kingsway avoiding the Aldwych and the northern part has been used for various purposes including an emergency control over the years since the trams departed. 

 

Around Farringdon there was quite a complex of lines mostly associated with the widened lines including the GWR's underground goods depot serving Smithfield Market. This was just to the east of the northern end of the Snow Hill Tunnel (now used for Thameslink) The Midland and the GNR also had goods stations around Farringdon but I don't think either of them were underground.

 

There is a plan of the GW goods depot here:

https://cdn.londonreconnections.com/assets/smithfieldgwplan.jpg

Edited by Pacific231G
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I'm sure I've read somewhere that there's still rails through the Woodhead tunnels - well one of them anyway! After the steam tunnels were abandoned they were used by the national grid to run power lines through. I'm certain i read they at some stage there was a narrow gauge railway alongside for maintainence purposes. I don't know if it was temporary instillation or more permanent.

 

Given my memory I might be making this all up!

 

Definitely not making it up, when my father worked for CEGB he travelled on it once!

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Does the Solva waterworks railway count? (Although most of its length is underground, both ends are on the surface).

 

The former Kingsway tram subway in London springs to mind, as does the Northern City line which is no longer part of the Underground network.

 

Also the construction lines on Crossrail.

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There was a three food gauge railway that ran from Port Mulgrave to Grinkle mine in North Yorkshire, the tunnel at the Port Mulgrave end started as a mine but became a running tunnel. There were a couple of underground branches in it one to the lower quayside and another to a mine.

Entry was possible a few years back but not that advisable as it had very poor air. The landward end is in a caravan park with a steel gate over it but the tunnel has several roof falls and is blocked

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At the same site as Chilmark there was also an underground quarry railway that sourced materials for Salisbury Cathederal.

Blimey that must be a very early Railway as that was built between 1220 and 1258............is it still there....big cheeky smiley

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Around Farringdon there was quite a complex of lines mostly associated with the widened lines including the GWR's underground goods depot serving Smithfield Market. This was just to the east of the northern end of the Snow Hill Tunnel (now used for Thameslink) The Midland and the GNR also had goods stations around Farringdon but I don't think either of them were underground.

 

 

 

The GNR depot was just to the west of the curve from the Widened Lines to Snow Hill. The MR depot was slightly east of the GWR one. AFAIK, the railway was below ground level at both these locations, so at least the base of the depots would have been underground. There was also the Met's own depot at Vine Street, slightly further west, on the north side of the Widened Lines, with rail access from the cutting. This was tiny, with two tracks each holding seven wagons, and storage space above, at street level. It was possibly the only general-goods depot in the UK to be worked entirely by electric engines.

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Just thought of another one - the experimental pneumatic/atmospheric underground railway that was built under Crystal Palace park.

 

There's also an underground monorail servicing a cable tunnel in north London.

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Slightly more than just a tunnel, because it included a station,  was the Kingsway tram tunnel in London. It ran from a triangular junction on the Embankment under Waterloo Bridge- the steel doors are still there- under the Aldwych and up Kingsway. It emerged just north of Holborn where the ramp is still in place with inset conduit tracks. Much of the southern part of it is now a road tunnel between Waterloo Bridge and Kingsway avoiding the Aldwych and the northern part has been used for various purposes including an emergency control over the years since the trams departed. 

 

Around Farringdon there was quite a complex of lines mostly associated with the widened lines including the GWR's underground goods depot serving Smithfield Market. This was just to the east of the northern end of the Snow Hill Tunnel (now used for Thameslink) The Midland and the GNR also had goods stations around Farringdon but I don't think either of them were underground.

 

There is a plan of the GW goods depot here:

https://cdn.londonreconnections.com/assets/smithfieldgwplan.jpg

 

Actually there were 2 stations in the Kingsway subway. The southern one, obliterated by the road tunnel, was in the area where the road now surfaces. The one at the northern end was near the Central line station. In fact, the narrow road island that exists there is where the steps came up.

 

Stewart

Edited by stewartingram
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was the Kingsway tram tunnel in London. It ran from a triangular junction on the Embankment under Waterloo Bridge- 

Just a nitpick, the junction underneath Waterloo bridge only allowed trams to turn towards Westminster bridge and enter from same direction, not a triangular one.

Incidentally the final scenes in the 1956 film "Bhowani Junction" where filmed in this tunnel. 

Edited by Judge Dread
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Might be worth researching the Glasgow low level lines, six underground stations still in use and historically an underground signal box at Stobcross. Plenty of info online and the CRA forums.

 

The layout I am building is based on Partick Central, which was the first overground station to the west of the lines that passed under the city centre.  I am modelling in the Edwardian era, but the lines now form part of a busy commuter system, so if you are looking for modern image then its all there . 

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